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My Progress:

10 / 30 books. 33% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

18 / 51 states. 35% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

13 / 50 books. 26% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

20 / 50 books. 40% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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38 / 50 books. 76% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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33 / 52 books. 63% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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23 / 40 books. 57% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

13 / 40 books. 33% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

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5 / 25 books. 20% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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24 / 26.2 miles. 92% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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19 / 100 books. 19% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

49 / 104 books. 47% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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39 / 52 books. 75% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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44 / 165 books. 27% done!
Thursday, March 22, 2018

Eerie, Atmospheric Literary Thriller a Shivery Gothic Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"They were trapped here at Idlewild.  But Idlewild wasn't everything.  It wasn't the world" (168).

Idlewild Hall—"the boarding school of last resort ... where parents stashed their embarrassments, their failures, and their recalcitrant girls" (16)—is made for teens like Cece Frank, Roberta Greene, and Sonia Gallipeau.  Each hiding their own dark secret, the three become roommates in 1950 at the cold, isolated institution.  Although none of them are thrilled about being stuck in such a grim place, they find comfort in their newfound friendship.  Like hundreds of Idlewild girls before them, they swap shivery stories about Mary Hand, the veiled ghost whose unsettled spirit haunts the school garden where her baby is rumored to be buried.  None of them doubt her existence—they've all felt her dark, menacing presence.  When one of the roommates disappears without a trace, the others can't help but wonder if she's been a victim of an apparition hungry for revenge.

Forty-four years later, the body of 20-year-old Deb Sheridan is discovered on Idlewild's long-abandoned campus.  Her death by strangulation is clearly the work of human hands, most likely those of her boyfriend, who's convicted and imprisoned for the crime.  Despite getting closure, the tragedy breaks the Sheridan family.  Two decades later, Fiona still can't shake the feeling that something wasn't right about her sister's case.  When she learns that an anonymous benefactor is restoring Idlewild Hall, it stirs up her old feelings of unease.  Desperate to find out what really happened to Deb, Fiona launches her own investigation under the guise of writing a magazine article about the reopening of Idlewild Hall.  To find answers, she'll have to confront the school's many ghosts and battle the sinister forces that haunt not just Idlewild, but her own tortured past.

I have a long-standing rule about not reading creepy books while my husband is out of town.  So, even though I made the mistake of starting The Broken Girls by Simone St. James right before a planned trip, I promised myself I'd read something else until his return.  As much as I tried to distract myself with a lighter, less nightmare-inducing novel, though, I couldn't do it!  Scary dreams be darned, I could not look away from this gripping story about ghosts and girls and their ghoulish secrets.  Atmospheric and eerie, The Broken Girls is a tense, absorbing novel that will keep you guessing throughout.  Even though the ending felt a little rushed and anticlimactic to me, overall, I enjoyed this haunting—but ultimately hopeful—story about righting past wrongs.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Carol Goodman, especially The Ghost Orchid and Arcadia Falls)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Broken Girls from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!

Historical Hollywood Novel Gripping and Glamorous

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Christine McAllister, owner of a chic vintage clothing shop in Hollywood, receives a donated movie prop, she's stunned.  How did Scarlet O'Hara's iconic hat end up in her hands instead of in a film museum?  There has to be a story there.  As Christine hunts for answers, she uncovers a tale as rich and intriguing as any she's seen on the big screen ...

It's 1938 and employees of Selznick International Pictures are scurrying to produce a film of epic proportions.  Sure to be a major hit, Gone With the Wind must be perfect, with every detail flawlessly executed.  Desperate to escape her debutante life in Alabama, 22-year-old Violet Mayfield accepts a secretarial position at the studio and is thrown right into the intoxicating whirlwind of Hollywood glitz and glam.  Her roommate, Audrey Duvall, is a promising but aging actress who, at 30, is desperate to land a significant part in a real movie.  In the meantime, the entrancing beauty appoints herself Violet's mentor, teaching the newcomer the ins and outs of life in Tinseltown.  

While Violet's aims are different from Audrey's ambitions, they're just as encompassing.  As the years pass and their dreams seem in danger of dying, both women will do things of which they're not proud in order to get what they want.  The consequences of those decisions will echo throughout their lives, changing their focus, their friendship, and their futures.  

I enjoy Susan Meissner's quiet, compelling novels and Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is no exception.  Since I always seem to prefer the past sections in a dual timeline story, this one especially appeals because only about 10% of it takes place in the present.  With its magical setting and complex characters, the 1938 tale is absorbing enough on its own.  Meissner's vivid storytelling brings the hustle and bustle of a Hollywood studio to life, with fascinating historical details to make it even more intriguing.  I found myself easily wrapped up in the setting, the characters, and the plot in this engrossing novel about the lengths to which we'll go to get what we want.

(Readalikes:  I haven't read many novels about Hollywood/the film industry, so I'm not sure what to compare Stars Over Sunset Boulevard to plot-wise.  Stylistically, of course, it's similar to Susan Meissner's other dual timeline novels.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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